By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - You could cut the tension with a knife Sunday afternoon at Corbett Stadium.
The USF women's soccer team had battled Louisville to a scoreless tie through two overtime periods with a penalty kick shootout starting in a couple of minutes. A spot in a Big East semifinal was on the line, but the Bulls were smiling and laughing while freshman keeper Christiane Endler was grooving to a song that was booming from the stadium's speaker system.
"What you want when you go into PKs right away is your team knowing that you're going to win," head coach Denise Schilte-Brown said.
The music stopped, both teams went to the middle of the field and the real fun officially began as some fans could hardly watch. Sharla Passariello matched Louisville's initial score with a goal of her own. Jessica Clark and Demi Stokes kept the Bulls going with two shots into the back of the net, and Endler bolted to her right to make a diving stop.
"We knew what we had to do. As a goalkeeper, you have to have a plan and follow it," Endler said.
USF found itself with in a 3-3 tie with a chance to win it all when freshman Olivia Chance set her shot up in front of Cardinals keeper Chloe Kiefer.
"I picked my spot and just went with it," Chance said.
Just as confidently as USF went into the shootout, Chance didn't hesitate one bit while punching the Bulls' ticket to Storrs, Conn., for a meeting with Georgetown on Friday.
"There are some games when you just feel like you're going to win the game," Schilte-Brown said. "I felt confident going into the game and throughout the game, even at times when we were getting stretched a little bit. I felt like it was going to be our game to win. It seemed right."
USF felt really good about the shootout because the situation wasn't out of the norm for a team that came in well prepared.
"I think any wise coach coming into this part of the season starts to think about penalty kicks, incorporates it into their practice and gets girls comfortable with it," Schilte-Brown said.
It all came down to a matter of just picking and choosing players that Schilte-Brown knew would follow through when it was for real, although the coach admitted it definitely wasn't an easy task.
"We had a lot of great players step up and take PKs at practice. It was a really tough decision which ones to choose," Schilte-Brown said. "We felt like some of the ones we chose had been in some really high pressure situations in the past."
Schilte-Brown may have gone against the grain a bit by selecting a freshman as the final shooter, but Chance is far from a normal first-year collegiate player. The midfielder/forward was in a ton of similar situations while playing for New Zealand's national team and had already put in three game-winners for USF during the regular season.
"She's an international player, a confident girl. We saved her for last because we knew she could handle the pressure," Schilte-Brown said.
USF now gets another chance to perform under pressure and it's likely that confidence will head with the Bulls up north later this week.
"We keep fighting and I think next week we're going to dig and get the goals that we need," Chance said.